Skip to main content


Carthage Wind Orchestra and Concert Band

The Carthage College Wind Orchestra, one of the oldest college bands in the United States, was established as a brass band in 1873 under the leadership of professor J. M. Helfrich. From its humble beginnings as a six-piece brass ensemble, the group has been known subsequently as the “Concert Band,” “Symphonic Band,” “Symphonic Wind Ensemble,” and “Wind Symphony” during its 140-year tenure.

The Carthage band wrapped up their 140th anniversary celebration with a concert featuring Liquid Compass, a new work by influential composer Alex Shapiro. Listen to the piece here.

The band has a long and distinguished history of service to Carthage and the artistic life of the communities of Kenosha, Wis., and Carthage, Ill. The band also has maintained a rich tradition of touring the Midwest, with international opportunities in Japan and South America. The band is also host to the annual Lakeside Band Festival.

Recent Wind Orchestra guest conductors include James Barnes, Andrew Boysen Jr., Johan DeMeij, Ralph Hultgen, Timothy Mahr, Jonathan Newman, Frank Ticheli, and Dana Wilson. The Carthage band claims as one of its most outstanding alumni the composer David Uber, whose music is archived in the College’s Hedberg Library.

Australian composer Ralph Hultrgen conducting two excerpts from his “Symphony for Wind Orchestra, movement 1” with the Carthage Wind Orchestra in November 2015.

The 140th Anniversary was celebrated throughout 2013-14 and featured many events, beginning with an outdoor performance of music drawn from the 1873-1874 programs and concluding with the May Anniversary Concert that featured the premiere of our Commissioned Work by Alex Shapiro, “Liquid Compass.” A CD of 140th anniversary highlights can be purchased through the Carthage Bookstore.

A series of important events celebrating the band’s 130th anniversary in 2003 included the band’s first tour to Japan, a Midwestern tour, the premiere of a commissioned work (Palimpsest by Keith Carpenter), and the band’s first compact disc. Additional CDs were released in 2007 (Winds a la Carte), and 2010 (Think on These Things). The CD Sacred Space and Sound features music from the Wind Orchestra tour to Japan in January 2011. In addition to Palimpsest, the Carthage Bands have taken part in commissioning new works from Steven Stucky, Christopher Theofanidis, Daniel Bukvich, Charles Rochester Young, and Martin Ellerby, among others.

From rehearsal to performance: Dr. Ripley conducts the premiere of his edition of Percy Grainger’s Arrival Platform Humlet for tuneful percussion, including nabimba, steel marimbaphone, staff bells, harp, and piano.

The Wind Orchestra Philosophy

Simply put, a wind orchestra is a group of musicians playing wind and percussion instruments. However, the wind orchestra includes only the composer’s specified instrumentation. Moreover, the wind orchestra layers the timbres of each instrument, rather than mixing them. Finally, the wind orchestra places optimal value on the expressive contribution of each member. The primary advantage of a wind orchestra is that it can change timbre based on the style of composition. Scholarships to play in the Wind Orchestra are available for both music majors and non-majors.

Conductor: Dr. James Ripley

The Carthage Concert Band

The Concert Band carries on the band’s long tradition of performing works of historical importance as well as a variety of outstanding new compositions. Symphonic band principles are utilized to formulate the sound of this ensemble. Music education students regularly rehearse and conduct the Concert Band in concert, in consultation with the director.  

Conductor: Dr. James Ripley

  • Quick Facts